The Instrument-Rated Christian

One minute, things were fine.  The next minute, things were not.

In a panicked call to ground control the pilot of Cessna 622 Tango Foxtrot requested to descend through thick cloud layer for an emergency landing.
Tower: “Cessna 622 Tango Foxtrot, are you equipped and qualified to fly using instruments?”
Pilot: “I have instruments onboard, but I have not got an IFR rating as of yet.”
Tower: “What are your intentions, 622 Tango Foxtrot?”
Pilot: “If at all possible, I am requesting emergency authority to descend through the IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) conditions and land if I can get down.”
Tower: “Roger, 622 Foxtrot, descend and maintain 4,000. Over.”
Pilot: “Descending to 4 zero……having difficulty! Having difficulty!”
Tower: “622 Tango Foxtrot, if you are in a spin release controls!”
Pilot: “HELP! HELP!”
Tower: “622 Tango Foxtrot, are you in a spin?”
Pilot: “YES! YES!”
Tower: “Roger, 622 Tango Foxtrot, release your controls! Straighten your rudder, please!”
Tower: “Cessna 622 Tango Foxtrot lost radar contact.”

Tragically, this pilot became disoriented and lost control of his plane within 30 seconds after he entered the clouds.  He and his two passengers were killed in the resultant crash. He was not IFR (Instrument Flight Rated). Attempting to escape the clouds. He banked sharply.  His senses deceived him, and he wrongly felt that the plane had stopped turning. He believed he needed to turn harder and drop the nose. His violent maneuvers caused his small plane to break apart in the air and enter into a deadly graveyard spiral. His senses made him believe something that was simply not true. The Bible warns of this scenario, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12.

Many pilots have died when their planes became enveloped in clouds, fog, or darkness, completely blocking all visual reference. Without being firmly planted on the ground and having zero visibility, they lose all sense of direction—even upward or downward. Because they cannot see the horizon or any lights in the distance, they have no idea what direction they are heading. Their senses trick them, and they begin frantic and dangerous maneuvering to fix the imagined problem.

You might remember when this exact scenario happened to John F. Kennedy Jr. He was killed, along with his wife and her sister when the plane he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean back in 1999. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was caused because Kennedy became disoriented after he flew into a situation that he was not trained for. He was only certified to fly VFR (visual flight rules), not IFR (instrument flight rules). At the time of takeoff, the weather was fine, and visibility was normal. But as he flew along the Atlantic coast, he was gradually surrounded by fog which obscured visibility of landmarks and the horizon. His senses deceived him, causing him to make some fatal decisions in maneuvering his plane.

The only way to fly safely in conditions where all visual reference is lost is to be trained in and to keep your eyes fixed on the plane’s instruments, because your senses will lie to you. The electronics on a plane show an artificial horizon and give the plane’s height, speed, and if the plane is climbing or descending. By keeping your eyes on the instruments, you are able to tell if the plane is banking right or left, even if your body is tricking you into thinking the exact opposite is happening.

Most seasoned pilots say that the hardest thing about completing IFR certification is learning to have unquestioning faith in the instruments. When all of your senses are telling you the plane is turning, but your instruments are telling you it is not, you have to ignore your senses and have complete confidence in the instruments.

This is exactly the same with our Christian walk! Just like pilots need a visual override outside of themselves when visibility goes away, we need outside guidance from God to help us when we can’t see the path ahead. Our senses deceive us all the time! In spite of how we feel or what we can see or cannot see…we must have complete trust in the instruments of God’s Word. Proverbs 3:5-6 exhorts us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

We, along with unbelievers, coast along fairly easily under normal circumstances. It’s the fog bank and resultant loss of visibility that will separate the IFR Christians from the VFR (Visual Flight Rule) Christians and unbelievers. In clouds, fog, and storms, our senses sometimes trick us into believing things that are not true. We think God has somehow lost control of the situation and we need to take violent (and sinful) measures in order to correct our course. The truth is we must trust in the Lord with all our hearts and we are NOT to lean on our own understanding.

The coronavirus has thrown our world into a fog bank. People have become disoriented because they cannot see ahead anymore. They are not IFR rated in God’s Word. Everything seems upside down as a result of this frightening pandemic, and many people are in a state of panic. Jobs have abruptly ended for many. Incomes have stalled. People are unsure how they will pay mortgages and bills or how they will buy groceries and other necessities. Kids are out of school, and it seems that seniors will not be able to have their graduation ceremonies. Weddings have been postponed, and family trips have been cancelled…All our plans have been interrupted. Worse, many are very sick or have loved ones who are very sick. Thousands have died from the virus. The future has become very obscure.

Panic, anxiety, fear, anger, depression, dismay…This is what many are feeling. We can’t see ahead. We are disoriented. What is going to happen! This came out of nowhere! What if the economy collapses? What if we lose our life savings? How will we find toilet paper? What if there is no more ground beef? What if this dangerous virus takes hold of my family! How will the business stay afloat? How will we make ends meet?! Our senses are telling us that we are going down. We need to stockpile hand sanitizer. We need to hoard toilet paper. We need to collect pasta, beans and baking supplies. We have to try to control this thing!!!

When crisis hits, however, and we can’t see ahead anymore, and our senses are prompting us to panic, we need to redirect our eyes to the instruments. We need to go to the truth of God’s Word for the answers. There should be a distinct difference in the way that we, as believers, handle crisis. It might seem like the instruments aren’t working. They are. God’s Word never fails. He is always faithful. He will keep our plane on a steady and straight path. We need to be IFR instrument rated Christians. We need to have undying faith in the Word of God—Our instruments. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The believer has a visual point of reference—God’s Word. With God’s Word, we are able to override the feelings of spatial disorientation when we are going through clouds, fog, or storms. The unbeliever only has VFR visual flight rules to go by…and things are not looking good right now, visually!

Because I have an instrument that is a sure and steady anchor—God’s Word, I will not look around this crazy world and become panicked. I won’t try to rely on my senses to interpret what is going on with this pandemic or any other trial because I know it won’t be accurate. I will look to the instruments and I will trust them with all my heart. God is in control. He is directing my life. He has a plan for me that cannot be thwarted.

The instruments are telling me that God will continue to take care of me. He always has and he always will. He knows my every need and He will supply my every need. The instruments tell me that life is more than food and clothing. I exist for a higher purpose! God has a divine plan for me.

God is in control. He never stopped being in control and He never will.

God went to great lengths to save a wretched sinner like me (Romans 5:8). He paid an inestimable price for me—He gave everything.  He will never abandon me (Hebrews 13:5). His love for me is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3). My name inscribed on His hands (Isaiah 49:16). He has a purpose for my life that is spiritual, and He will accomplish it (Philippians 1:6). My life is not food, toilet paper, and physical things. My life has spiritual, eternal value. He saved me, put me into His family, gave me a witness and a ministry, and He wants me to live to His glory. I will not die before He accomplishes in me exactly what He planned (Isaiah 46:10). He knew me before He laid the foundation of the world (Psalm 139:16). His thoughts toward me outnumber the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18). He LOVES me! He is the sovereign KING of the universe. He is unlimited in power, resources, knowledge, mercy, forgiveness, wisdom… He will provide for me. He will take care of my life. He will do everything for me (Romans 8:32).

I will not be anxious.
I will not worry.
I will not be afraid.

I will walk by faith, not by sight. I will keep my eyes on the instruments!
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